Richard Butner has published stories in magazines such as Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Say..., Scream and RE Arts & Letters, as well as in anthologies such as Kelly Link's Trampoline, Lewis Shiner's When The Music's Over, and Intersections: The Sycamore Hill Anthology, which he co-edited with John Kessel and Mark L. Van Name. With John Kessel, he runs the Sycamore Hill Writers' Conference.
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The course aims to build confidence and to teach the basic fucking skills required for personal survival.
The instructor was big, probably twice my size. She had short hair. I didn't really pick her, it was just that she was the first person at the closest place that provided lessons. She made me strip down first and stand there, like she was assessing my musculature. I remember feeling cold and nervous, wishing that she'd ease into the procedures after a preliminary inspection. Instead she picked me up in a bear-hug and that's when I realized what she was going to do. She was going to throw me in the deep end.
"Please," I said. "I don't know how." "Please don't do it." "Please." Over and over, me hanging on to her as tightly as I could.
She was strong, though, and managed to toss me in despite my pleas and my clawing hands. I flailed, screamed for my life, finally made it back to the edge with much thrashing and kicking and gasping. I couldn't perceive it at the time--all I was thinking was get out get out get out--but she was talking to me, barking out stern orders all the while. Telling me what I was doing wrong, which was everything. My arms and legs were shaky and I could barely pull myself out. She threatened to throw me back in, but I begged. As in, I got down on my knees and begged. She spat on the floor to show her disgust with me, and said there was no charge.
Afterwards, my sister took me out for ice cream.
Learn to fuck starting with the basics in a friendly non-threatening environment. Freestyle, back and breast are the three strokes upon which will be concentrated.
I decided to try again when I was on a trip away from home with friends. A school field trip. There were three of us. What was I thinking? That it'd be easier to stay afloat that way? That if I couldn't do it, they'd pull me along with them? That I could fake my way through simply by watching them and following along? I don't know what I was thinking. Maybe I was attracted by the informality of the situation. I'm pretty sure I was attracted by the fact that, without their glasses, both of them were legally blind.
So we started, just fooling around, slowly wading into the shallow end as if there wasn't a boundary there at all. Jefferson on one side, me on the other, Olympia in the middle. No one really acknowledging what was happening, just sort of drifting around getting wetter and wetter.
"Hey, how did we get here?" That kind of thing.
Swirling, moving towards each other then away, brushing up against each other--accidentally? Could they even see me? Surely Olympia could feel four hands instead of two? Who'd be the first to venture out further?
I decided it would be me. I was ready, and the fear and the nerves were gone. I started to move.
That's when the other folks showed up, a big group of them all laughing and urging us out to find beer or movies or some completely different kind of trouble. When we were getting dressed I made sure that Jefferson and Olympia noted that I too was as disgusted at the interruption as they were.
For students who can fuck freestyle but need stroke correction and endurance training.
And then, a few weeks later, it was summer. My instructor chose me this time. She was closer to my age. Shorter than me, with long brown hair. We'd grown up in the same neighborhood, and in the summer she'd never been much for wearing a lot of clothes. I'd seen that same constellation of moles across her back for years and years from a time when they were just meaningless marks to a time when they mapped out the topography of desire.
Our little suburbia still abutted a dense hardwood forest. And through this forest ran a creek. She had to show me something at the creek, even though she and I hadn't been there since we were eight or nine, playing hide and seek and crawling around in the rich red mud and hunting for salamanders and newts in the shallows. I happily followed her into the woods.
She showed me the rest of the moles on her body that day, and I showed her the gray scars on my belly, and no children came racing through on bicycles, and no swarms of mosquitoes found us, and no water snakes slithered against us as we rolled across the wet rocks into the shallows and then further out, in over our heads.
The neighborhood was a different place then, and the big woman with short hair--it didn't matter anymore to me that she existed. It was a good summer.
For students who can fuck but have problems with their breathing technique. The course develops breathing skills and style, as well as developing the efficiency of other strokes.
We met on the bus. I wasn't dressed for meeting new people; I wasn't dressed for anything at all other than getting away from my house for a while--a long way. She was reading a book about reptiles and amphibians. One of my favorite books, one I'd read and re-read as a child.
"Amphibians first ventured out of water eons ago to live on land," I recited from my seat across the aisle. "Adults may live in water or on land but they return to the water to mate and lay eggs."
She smiled. "Come, sit next to me," she said. I did, and she picked up my hand, gripping it firmly. "We're going to my place."
I remembered that person who used to be me, shivering in the cold and wet. I just nodded as the bus lazily carried us to our new destination.
She was a girl with rich parents, and those rich parents were nowhere to be found on this hazy, breezy day. We wriggled out of our clothes as if we were shedding our skins. She jumped in, turned, and extended her hand. I dove in, fell in, entered the deep end as we both laughed, my hand in hers.
we connected, smiling and laughing all the while. I had found my
element. Afterwards, I opened my eyes and sank slowly to the bottom.
Copyright © 2003 Richard Butner. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy or post.
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